Studies have shown that acupuncture can raise
the level of endorphins in the nervous system. Resembling opiates in
structure and function, endorphins are the body's natural pain killers.
Their level is also increased by endurance exercises, such as long-distance running. It seems that the cravings and withdrawal symptoms
experienced by those giving up smoking or drugs can be alleviated by
raising the level of endorphins in the nervous system. Some researchers
also believe that the desire to eat is also mediated by the endorphin
levels in the brain, which would explain why acupuncture helps dieters to
control their appetites.
Acupuncture as a Treatment Option for Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Chinese medicine is based on the concept of yin and yang, which are both dynamic and complementary opposites observed in all the processes of nature. In a healthy individual, yin and yang are in relative balance. Addicts often suffer from a deficiency of yin. Chinese medicine relates yin to substance, quiescence, and the element of water. Yang relates to function, activity, and the element of fire. Yin nourishes, and yang consumes. When yin, or the water element, is deficient, fire is not held in check and rages out of control. On a psychological level, such an imbalance creates feelings of emptiness and desperation. Physiologically, it manifests as frenetic hyperactivity. The addict is driven to use and abuse, but the drug exacerbates the fire and further depletes the yin; hence, the feeling of power he or she gains is exaggerated and merely temporary, leading to even more desperation.
The treatment involves nourishing the yin by treating points on the outside of the ear. Short, thin, sterile needles are inserted at three to five points. Patients sit or lie comfortably for about forty-five minutes. The treatments often have a profoundly calming effect on the mind and body, creating feelings of peace and well-being. Three of the five acupuncture points strengthen the liver, kidneys and lungs, which are the major organs of elimination. They have often grown weak in addicts because they have been subjected to the daily burden of eliminating an excess of toxins from the body.
People addicted to hard drugs are advised to receive daily treatment
until they are clean. They then receive treatments a couple of times a
week for a while to help them to remain so. Alcoholics also require
daily treatments during the initial period of treatment. To insure
long-term abstinence, both groups are encouraged to seek counseling and
participate in a support group. Interestingly, alcoholics receiving
acupuncture during the withdrawal period rarely experience seizures.
Acupuncture as a Treatment Option to Quit Smoking
Smokers differ because nicotine is a much milder
drug. It does not produce the dramatic effects of hard drugs, although it
is just as addicting and harmful to the body. Smokers generally do not need daily treatments of acupuncture and can usually kick the habit in a
shorter period of time. After one or two treatments, the craving for
nicotine is usually significantly reduced. After four or five treatments
spread over a two-week period, seven out of ten patients will have
managed to quit. Others will have drastically cut down on the number of
cigarettes smoked daily. The same five points on the ear are used.